Tag Archives: Writer Groups

How Writing Conferences Can Surprise You

4 Nov

Today, I am attending a writing conference. (In case you’re wondering, I’m at the Middle of the Map Conference in Overland Park, Kansas.) While prepping last night, I began thinking about how much I love conferences—and about how many writers are on the fence about attending them.

I always tell writers to attend conferences if they can. Why? Because they might surprise you.

You see, I attended a different conference back in March with the wild hopes of snagging a literary agent.

Extra Tip: You don’t have to travel to attend conferences! There are now online conferences. But make sure to take a business card with you to in-person events.

When the conference was posted, I paid to attend. I also volunteered to help.

Here I was, thinking “volunteering” meant I’d hand out water bottles or get to chat in the early morning hours before arrivals…and then, they asked me to pick up agents and editors at the airport. FYI, I’m TERRIFIED of driving. Like, seriously, I’ve been in three major car wrecks. (None of which were my fault.) I had to go to therapy over it, but I’m much better now, and I wanted to stick to my word and help. So, I diligently practiced driving the route the day before. Later, one of the attending editors complimented me on my driving through the city in the rain. (This was a major accomplishment for me, who’d struggled for so many years with driving. I was really proud of myself for not backing down.) That was the first day.

To give you a better idea of my personal life and how this conference affected me, I work two jobs on a nightshift. I’m awake from 3 PM to 3 AM. On average, I get to bed about 7 AM. I had to attend this conference at 8 AM the very next day. I was exhausted and running on coffee-fueled adrenaline. Like many writers, I’m not wealthy, but I work my hardest, and I often work every day. Still, I paid $300 to attend and an additional $150 to pitch three different agents. It took me WEEKS to save up that money, and I don’t regret spending that money because something amazing happened.

After pitching three different agents, I walked away with three full manuscript requests and endless hope. Seven months later, one request resulted in a denial after we discussed a potential publisher who pushed it through acquisitions (a publisher that I LOVE, but who also didn’t work out in the end). One requested a R&R, and one request is still pending. Back in March, I naively thought I’d found the one, and though I’m still agent-less (and no longer actively querying), I still had a blast.

You see, while I waited for my turn to pitch, I began a conversation with another volunteer. She was a local writer, and we started talking about publishing/writing/reading/everything. She kept cheering me on, and I really appreciated how much she helped me keep my head up, especially since I was so bone-achingly exhausted. At one point, she mentioned her writer’s group, and I mentioned that I’d been struggling to find an in-person one. She invited me to attend hers later that month.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Here I was, an awkward/exhausted/out-of-money author, who’d been looking for a local writer’s group for MONTHS, only to be invited to one when I wasn’t actively searching. My hopes soared. I was so excited—and terrified.

What if they hated me? What if they hated my writing? What if I got a taste for an awesome group, only to be rejected when I asked if I could become a member? What if, what if, what if?

Later that month, I attended a meeting, not knowing what to expect, and now, I’m a regular part of the group. I look forward to our monthly meetings, and I’ve already grown a lot as a writer. Even better, I made friends.

I didn’t find an agent that day, but I did join an amazing writer’s group that changed my life for the better.

Publishing is an awkward, exciting, terrifying road, but more than that, it’s unpredictable.

So attend those conferences if you can. Those surprises can change everything.

~SAT

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Self-Publishing Checklist

25 May

Shannon again to announce two events and today’s guest blogger.

Books for Thought posted an interview I recently had with them where I discuss even more of my strange writing habits, my ultimate dream, and what I like and dislike about the writing process. Check out my answers and more by clicking here.

Also, I would like to thank Reviews and Recommendations for recommending me!

Today’s guest blogger is Jonas Lee. He also hosts the blog Jonas Lee’s Imaginarium. A writer and challenger of the imagination, Jonas Lee is on his publishing adventure, and he shares his thoughts with the world.

Welcome today’s guest blogger, Jonas Lee!

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley said it best in the last line of Out of the Night That Covers Me. Since I’m foregoing the traditional path, I decided on looking into being self-published. Self-publishing is a new opportunity for every writer to become an author. You can write a 400 page novel saga about the differences of Coke and Pepsi and make it available to the world. Keep in mind, self-publishing does not equate to selling.

So, you’ve gotten to the point where no one is biting at your manuscript; or you just want to get your work out there and let it spread slowly throughout the world of literary media like a virus. Self-publishing is the way to go. Where to start though?

Well, first things first…

  1. Book finished? Check
  2. Book edited? Check
  3. Book edited by someone other than you? By at least three different people? A professional?

If that last one is a no, ease back before you just wildly post it on the Interwebs. I thought mine was good on the second round of edits. Then taking a week, stepping back and hearing from a couple of people on a few  flaws (by few I mean tons), it was obvious that I should take more time. Then after having a cursory edit from someone who edit for a living, I am certain that editing is key. Think about putting your work, your art, your passion out there and it contains simple typos, grammatical issues or a problem with flow.

JonasReap(1)First impressions happen once and you don’t want to be caught seeming like you are incompetent or don’t take pride in your craft. If you are setting out on your own, you want the first experience to be the best and kick-start the momentum from there. What I’ve found from my research so far on self-publishing is that it takes a motivated person with a clear plan to reach the heights they want to achieve.

Unlike being picked up by a literary agent, you will act as your marketing department, publicist, publisher, proof-reader, editor, legal consultant, accountant and artist for your cover art. Granted, you can hire out a majority of these functions, but how much would you like to sink into your novel before you get any return? Get that figure in your mind first. Then break it down to a time table that you’d like to see. First things first, before you submit an eBook or self-print, edit your book! Professionally. Then you’ll need cover art.

Cover art can be anything. There are websites out there to help guide you through some basic covers to get you started. *Note: Do not just pull images off of the internet and use them because “you found them for free so they must be free.” Artists can sue you for using their images without their consent, and it doesn’t have to be immediately. You can push out a book and it takes off and soars and reaches the top of Amazon. Then the artist whose cover art you pilfered from sees it and he wants his royalties. Do you want to be sued for up to $125,000? Take the time and buy the prints. Prints can cost from $20 and up, but then they are yours to play with and manipulate. C Your A.

How many people in your family or social groups would be willing to help in any occasion? Don’t expect the world to do your bidding, but trade services. If you know an artist that will do your cover art for helping them sheet rock their basement, do it! If you know an accountant that will give you advice for wine, barter and make it work. 

Cover art done and editor lined up, so what next? Like any hopeful author should do in these circumstances, read up. Research your audience and get a clear idea of who you want to buy your book. I know we’d like everyone to buy it, but let’s face it everyone has a genre or niche they are appealing to. Then use that to find creative ways to market and get known. 

Next in line, talk with an accountant. Seems presumptuous? No, seriously, if you are going to spend your money on a “business venture” such as writing, they will be able to help you find the right path to start on. First off, you are a business once you post your work for sale, so you need a Tax-ID or and EIN (Employee Identification Number). In my state, you have to register yourself as a company. Sounds silly when you are just hoping for a few sales at first, but trust me, when you start propelling and picking up speed, it’ll be a great investment. Plus, if you wind up getting signed by a literary agent, you’re eliminating steps they have to take. Who doesn’t want less work?? Your accountant should steer you towards any paperwork that you need to accomplish that. Oh, and yes, it will cost money to register yourself. On the plus side, it should be tax deductible.

In fact, keep receipts for anything you spend time or money on (this includes your writing time). You never know when something can be written off. Another perk on registering your name as a business is that write-offs for business expenses are possible. Check with an accountant on what those may be. However, your business registration will also allow you to set up back accounts (very handy for people using a pen name).

After your editor, cover art and your accountant, now… Refer to the C Your A comment above. Copyrights. DO NOT post a book or set of short stories or poetry without making sure that they can’t be picked up and sold by another. Unless you are wanting them to remain free to whomever wants it. Copyrighting can cost money but its a wise investment. Otherwise, the free way to copyright, albeit less formal and more work, is to seal your manuscript in a waterproof envelope and mail it to yourself. Keep in mind, don’t open it. You do that and it’s back to being a stack of paper up for the taking. Mailing it and keeping it in a safe or at least a secure place ensures it in case your story winds up in a publishing house somewhere or on TV. The government basically time-stamped and delivered your insurance policy.

Lastly, a great option an aspiring author should be looking into formatting your manuscript. Even though it looks great on Microsoft Word, e-Readers speak a different language altogether and your masterpiece might look like it was shuffled into a deck of hieroglyphics and empty space.

So, stew on those tidbits. 

Self-Publishing Shopping List:

  • Finish Book
  • Edit, edit, eidt (sp) – {then hire a professional}
  • Social Media
  • Copyright
  • Editor
  • Formatting
  • Cover Art
  • Tax Preparedness
  • ISBN Registry – Not needed, but handy for referencing materials later
  • Marketing – Think of what you want to spend (publicity, flyers, social media boosts, shwag, QR Codes, domain-name purchases, website)
  • Get to know your local businesses, book stores, book clubs and writer groups
Jonas Lee, photo provided by Jonas Lee

Jonas Lee, photo provided by Jonas Lee

– Jonas Lee

Connect with Jonas Lee by clicking here

Thank you, Jonas Lee!

Why Writers Should Watch “Authors Anonymous”

25 Apr

Two announcements before we begin:

An exclusive excerpt from Seconds Before Sunrise can be read on Making My Mark as well as a review. “The first book, Minutes before Sunset was a great hook to the series and I couldn’t wait for the second book to be released.” Read the rest of the review and excerpt by clicking here. You can also check out Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise.

Speaking of my novels, I asked you all on my Facebook page if you wanted me to have a progress bar for my future projects. Since you said yes, I have added a progress bar which you can see on the right side of my website. (And below this paragraph.) I’ll update it every two weeks. Once “TMT” is turned into my final editor, I will release more information on the name and what it is about. “Death Before Daylight” will be released after TMT, so the order shows the order of the releases.

mynext

It will make you laugh. It will make you nod. And it might even push some of your writer pet peeves – which is exactly why you should take 93 minutes out of your day to watch it.

“Authors Anonymous” is a mockumentary about aspiring writers.

Before I explain in detail (without spoilers, believe it or not. Never mind, I’m using spoilers, but they aren’t awful) about why I think you should watch it, here is the synopsis and trailer from IMDB:

“When a dysfunctional group of unpublished writers accept Hannah into their fold, the last thing they expect is her overnight success. Can these lovable misfits achieve their artistic dreams and avoid killing one another in the process?”

Yes. That is the girl from The Big Bang Theory. Her name is Kaley Cuoco, and she does a good job.

If you think this movie is going to be a serious, deep discussion of a writer’s life, this isn’t for you. This movie is for the writer who just wants to laugh at all the ridiculousness that happens in this writing world. I am one of those writers. I even giggled in delight at the things that normally make my blood pressure rise.

Being able to laugh at myself is how I stay sane (to the best of my ability anyway.) Being able to laugh at this is how I remind myself that we are – in fact – in this together. Even then, the film is simple, light-hearted, and not to be taken too seriously, but…

“Authors Anonymous” tackles a lot of clichés, stereotypes, and exceptions in the publishing world, which is why it’s so fantastic. In fact, I AM some of these clichés, and I think it’s okay to be some of these stereotypical writers. The sad part is when writers try to hurt one another. The good part is that we can be honest about these things, and we can laugh, knowing that we’ve faced many of these issues together. 

Here are just some of my favorites:

Writer Groups:

We hear about them. We attend them. We love them. Then, we hate them. (In private, of course – and not all of the time. Only when we have been judged too harshly or someone else’s work was too perfect. And we only tell our “non-writer” friends how we secretly feel about this confliction.)

It’s a cliché we all know.

Writers help other writers until one writer gets too good. Then, shit jealousy hits the fan, and no one knows who “deserves” to be published more. It’s all a game of luck anyway…wait, did we seriously just say that out loud?

Note: I love you Kansas City Writers Meetup Group

“Who is your favorite writer?”

If you’re a writer, you’ve definitely been asked this. It’s one of those top five questions you find yourself explaining over and over because you answered it once and you’re too afraid a dedicated reader will see you contradict yourself in a new interview. So you have this script, and you are now forced to keep for LIFE. Unless you get a new pen name and start all over.

Note: Why do we ask questions like this? I can’t fathom having a single favorite of anything, let alone a favorite of something I’m incredibly passionate and borderline obsessed with. Please don’t make me pick my favorite color (merlot) or my favorite drink (merlot.)

The I-never-actually-write writer

“I’ll write a book one day.” “I have a great idea.” “I’ve started something that is going to be a best-seller, but I’m just stuck for now.” “I know what you should write.” Need I explain any further?

Note: I’ll fill in this note later.

Storyboards and other writing methods:

The great part of this movie is how they never come out and say everything. In a couple of scenes, you see one author’s storyboard in the background. It’s little things like that where I found myself laughing (for no apparent reason to my friend in the room who isn’t a writer.) There was also this fantastic moment I wish I could share but it would be too big of a spoiler, but I will say this: there is a limit to “researching” for a novel. I think we’ve all heard of a writer who’s taken research a little too far.

Note: “I may have a restraining order, but it happened when I was doing research” is not a line someone wants to hear from you on a first, second, or thirty-fifth date.

Traditionally published vs. Self-published

I am published. You are published. She is published. We’re all published! Why does there have to be a label in front of “published”? This movie had no fear in exposing that writers are often the worst offenders of this – and sometimes at the expense of their own friends.

Note: This is where I shamelessly link to one of my previous posts about this topic because I just want this publishing world to be a better place: Why Are Authors “Hating” On One Another?

The Awful Author Mills

So, wait. You’ll publish my book, but it’s going to cost me $6,000 and the name of my first born? Oh, you mean my character’s first born…Well…okay. If that’s my only option…It isn’t? You’ll do it for free? But I won’t see any of the earnings or marketing or anything? I…Uh…Okay. That’s better than the first deal. I’ll take it.

Note: We’re sorry. You own no rights now. Ever. And this phone service has been disconnected or is no longer in service.

Sitting in a café, park, etc. sipping on coffee while writing:

There’s a scene where this author is showing her “peaceful” garden that she writes in. At first, it’s this beautiful little couch with a desk, photos, and flowers. And then she puts in ear buds to block out the construction less than one foot away from her. Sitting in public isn’t for everyone. Neither is sitting at home.

Note: I am guilty of this. I totally sit in public when I write, and Instagram is filled with my coffee photos. No shame.

Tom Clancy

That is all.

The showcasing of a successful writer who isn’t “well-read.”

This was my favorite part. I loved this. The writer who is deemed the most successful person in the group doesn’t even know what The Great Gatsby is. I only thought this was funny because – let’s be honest – there is a constant pressure on authors to have not only read all of the classics but to have also read everything that’s ever been released. (Which is ridiculous.)

It’s great to be able to read, and I think we would all agree when I say we wish we had more time to read. But it’s okay to tell people you haven’t read that novel everyone else has read, even though it’s popular, sitting on your bookshelf, or even the best author in the genre you write in. It’s also okay to say you do or do not like something.

Note: “Best” is subjective anyway.

Note 2: I dislike The Great Gatsby novel, mainly because Nick’s narration was as annoying to me as Toby Maguire was in Spider-Man 3. On the other hand, I loved Kristen Stewart as Marylou in On the Road, a movie adaptation of one of my favorite Kerorac novels. This seems to blow everyone’s minds. We are all allowed to say how we feel, aren’t we?

Note 3: No. No, we are not.

Note 4: Did I just participate in the whole “well-read” cliche without realizing it?

Note 5: Yes. Yes, I did.

In the end, this isn’t about a movie. I’m not reviewing a film. I am sharing a movie that reviews some of the very cliché moments that happen in our publishing world every day. But the movie itself is amateur…Wait. No. No, it’s not. It’s absolutely amazing – but again, don’t expect something deep. It’s simply a good story to sit back, relax, and have a good laugh at when you think, “Been there. Done that.” We authors aren’t alone. We’re sitting in parks and coffee shops filled with one another. (Just kidding.)

We’re in this writing adventure together, and we should support one another as we venture along. The publishing world will continue to change, but we can handle any challenge in the future. In fact, we may even have a good laugh as we overcome it.

~SAT

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